2 Poems — Tim Kahl



Khachkars

After all the Arabs left the Ararat plain
and the cathedrals conspired to still the faith
of those who remained, the sign of the cross
is chiseled into stone. It rests on an icon
of the sun giving birth to a new nation
free from the shame of worshipping rocks
standing out in the open. They consecrated
crossroads, stood on the borders and hills,
and lived near springs. Some were erected
to heal sickness. Some measured fear of
natural disaster. The cemeteries are littered
with the work of masters, and memories
begin to firm up in a desolate clearing—
like the one of Tamerlane coming to rob
the four points of the cross of their diamonds
by gouging them out of the stone like
they were eyes set to witness all wounds.
But there is little honor left in being a victim,
already there are so many of them. It is better to
speak of Gregory the Illuminator who emerges
from the pit after twelve years of banishment
to convince his jailer, the king, to embrace
the wider world. The joy of a nation ventures
forth as the old men settle their affairs in
the square in Yerevan over a game of chess.
God, they agree, is a pawn who, after he
is slain, refuses to leave the board.



***



“The Duduk Weeps” by Tim Kahl. Released: 2017.


The Duduk Weeps

The duduk weeps and its hoarse voice settles
on refugees coming in across the border once again.
This time it’s from Syria. They’ve come back to
the homeland to tie a piece of their own clothing
to a holy tree near the church. The smiling bootblack
in the square understands his talent for
blotting out the past’s blemishes. The teahouse
keepers set the water to boil for a cleansing
of the liver. An old man sits on a bench
with his radio and listens to yesterday’s news
or maybe it is Mansurian’s Requiem.
The effect on his heart’s pleasure is the same.
Never before has there been such a place
built for tears. The duduk weeps for
the puppet theater’s depiction of Soviet rule.
The duduk weeps for the earthquake’s
ripples through the streets and the new city
built on the wreckage. The duduk weeps
for the former factory worker selling bananas
on the corner. The duduk weeps for the loss of
electricity at night when the sick child is reading
from The Book of Lamentations. The duduk weeps
for those newly arrived who have brought their
carpets to sell so they can begin their lives once more.



***


Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He is also editor of Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.